Sam Tan

My understanding of God and my prayer life have completely changed, thanks to the Conversion and Prayer Experience Retreats.

I had been a lukewarm Catholic for about a year, since my baptism. I did not skip Sunday masses when I didn’t feel like attending; I simply dragged my feet to get to church just because I had warden duties to perform. I sensed that, surely, there was more to the Faith than what I was going through. I felt something missing. Due to the lack of Christian fellowship and information on spiritual conversion, my faith was slowly dwindling.

Then I had my first eye-opening experience. I was attending a Saturday Healing Mass at CSC, where I heard the testimonies of those fresh from CER. During the healing session, I saw my friend, with whom I had tagged along, get ‘slain’ by the Holy Spirit. I learnt later that she had, while she rested on the floor, experienced a ‘very bright light’. I was intrigued and signed up that very night for the next Retreat.

Over the four days of talks, prayers and self-examination at the Retreat, God opened my eyes to my past dreadful ways: I had been an irresponsible and reckless son and husband. A binge drinker who habitually indulged in drink-driving—with no qualms of stopping the car to throw up along the expressways, and no regard for the safety of myself and other road users.

I realised that no mother would wish for such a son; no woman such a husband. Yet they had accepted and loved me. But I had been ungrateful and oblivious to all of these rich blessings, blind to God’s grace and love that had kept me safe and sound for 50 years.

Other bits of the puzzle began to fit together at the Retreat: I understood that I neither felt nor appreciated their love because I had not recognised it, and thus did not know how to receive love. I now know that to love is to forgive, the way our Lord forgives us, the way my loved ones do too. When you forgive someone, you’re giving that person your love. I also realised that peace comes from helping others. When you offer your service to help others you feel happy, and you are thankful too for being able to do so—which by itself is ‘healing’ for you. And this also makes you joyous.

The understanding I got from the Retreat is: Love + Peace = Joy. If you don’t experience joy, it’s because you don’t feel love and peace.

I had another insight about joy during the Prayer Experience Retreat, which followed soon after the conversion Retreat. I understood that healing brings joy. And all of us—not just priests—have the ability to bring about healing to others, such as through intercessory prayers.  The prayer Retreat taught me how to pray correctly and experience the closeness with God that is so real.

Prayer, to me now, is so important. It is a powerful daily spiritual food that is a ‘must’ to enrich our spiritual life. It also helps us to engage in spiritual warfare and triumph over the evils that keep tempting us to commit sins.

I’m a changed man. I have found love in God and I have learnt to appreciate my family’s love for me.

What’s more, I wake up at 5.45 every morning to be with God, praying the Scriptures using the Lectio Divina and Ignatian Contemplation methods. I do this for up to an hour. My feelings while praying now are totally different from before, as I’ve discovered closeness with God during prayer time.

My transformation through the Conversion and Prayer Experience Retreats has touched my loved ones. My wife and son, from a non-denominational church, are signing up for RCIA. “Since I’m on the fast track, you have some catching-up to do,” I tease them. In time, I hope for us to pray regularly as a family and have intercessory prayers for relatives and friends who need healing.

I’m a little of a retreat junkie now—I’m keen to attend the CSC Discipleship Retreat, as well as other retreats here or overseas, to build upon my spiritual knowledge and enriching experiences.

Sam Tan, CER 28